View from Lodi, CA: Iraq? Who cares?
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I haven't read a news story about Iraq in 2003. I don't watch CNN or Fox News. If I watch television, I don't read any crawler that has the word "Iraq."

I don't listen to talk radio either. Instead, I listen to my CDs.

I have no strong opinions one way or the other about war on Iraq. I don't think President Bush has made a very compelling case. Americans have the nagging feeling that George W. is carrying out the unfinished business of George H.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that Iraq is a global menace and that Saddam Hussein should be removed.

One thing I do know is that I don't want to hear any more about it.

Fish or cut bait: no more threats, no more posturing, no more deadlines and no more "final deliberations."

Months of delay over Iraq have killed the economy and cost thousands of people their jobs. The stock market is in the tank. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in ten years.

For every person I hear speculating about Iraq, I hear 20 who are worried about their jobs, their mortgages and their financial future.

A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 81% of San Joaquin Valley residents expect the recession to worsen over the next year.

Bush is a Johnny-One Note. He has one card in its hand: Iraq.

And unfortunately for Bush he has only limited credibility on the subject. Bush's lieutenants, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld aren't very persuasive either.

And pity poor Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. His "Be ready" campaign is more laughable than the red, orange and yellow codes that no paid any attention to. Ridge can't make up his mind whether to encourage us to buy duct tape or new television sets.

What Bush, et al. don't like to talk about is that Islamic terrorists have been plotting against the U.S. for the better part of two decades. No slap-dash Homeland Security Department can off set twenty years of patient planning by suicidal terrorists.

Bush hasn't been able to sell the War on Iraq to the country or to the world. And because he hasn't, the U.S. has been the target of ugly demonstrations and wide scale embarrassments that undermine our confidence in Bush's leadership.

Has Bush painted himself into a corner on Iraq? The troops are in position but worldwide support isn't. And now Hans Blix has thrown Bush a curve by suggesting that Iraq is providing new information and is cooperating more than previously. Blix's statement gives more grist to the anti-war camp.

Bush has no domestic agenda. He's talked about a $670 billion tax cut that isn't going to happen. And he wants to overhaul Medicare to the tune of $450 billion—that isn't going to happen either.

Iraq is Bush's domestic agenda. If Bush prevails in Iraq, as he hopes to, then he assumes that an adoring Congress will hand the rest of his programs to him on a silver platter.

But according to the House's most influential senator on tax legislation, Charles Grassley (R-IO) Bush may not have it so easy. Said Grassley, "It's quite natural that if he would have a big international victory, it would help him. But he shouldn't count on it."

This, mind you, is an assessment from a Republican.

The 2004 election is a long way away. But as of today, Bush's political future is cloudy. To be re-elected in 2004, everything in Iraq will have to play out perfectly. So far, things aren't pointed in that direction. The odds are long that suddenly everything will turn in Bush's favor.

Realistically, Bush's approval rating is about 35% and dropping. The Democrats have plenty of fodder. To list only a few areas other than Iraq where Bush is vulnerable, 2 million lost jobs, 40 million Americans without health insurance, the record trade deficits, states hemorrhaging red ink and clandestine plans with Mexico to deliver $350 billion in social security benefits to illegal aliens.

And lest we forget, Osama bin Laden is still out there.

If the Democrats can't make hay out of that, then the party leaders should find new lines of work.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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